Connected Planning gives Thomas Cook financial insights for forecasting on the fly
Dynamic financial analysis drives real-time decision-making, better collaboration, and a stronger bottom line
The UK’s Thomas Cook serves 22 million customers annually, offering holiday packages, foreign currency exchange, flights on its two airlines, and other travel services. Siloed, manual processes created headwinds that slowed the company’s ability to understand and respond to changes in its dynamic, competitive environment. Reinventing and connecting those processes on the Anaplan platform empowered the finance team to analyze and forecast multiple business factors on the fly in great detail. This drives faster decision-making, more margin, and happier customers.
[With Anaplan] we can drive out more margin because we understand more of what’s going on.
Head of Finance Transformation
Shifting customer preferences, political factors, currency exchange rates, fierce competition, and other pressures are all elements of the dynamic travel business landscape. “No year is the same,” explains Andrew Tye, Head of Finance Transformation at UK-based Thomas Cook, which operates airlines, offers holiday packages, provides currency exchange, and runs online and brick-and-mortar travel service offices. For Thomas Cook, the ability to analyze the ever-changing business environment and quickly make decisions can help both customer satisfaction and the bottom line to soar.
For years, fragmented processes put decision-making in a holding pattern at Thomas Cook. For example, it took a week for the team to assemble the data to create a P&L forecast—before they did any forecasting. “And to do anything new was basically a nightmare,” Tye recalls.
To address these challenges, the company brought on Anaplan in two areas: in the “yield team,” which sets prices for holiday packages; and in finance, where Tye works. In finance, two large Anaplan models—channel sales and short-term cash, each larger than 300 million cells—are fed by multiple smaller models that forecast ancillary sales (in-flight meals, parking, and the like), foreign exchange, and other revenue sources. The seamless interaction between these models has proved a huge time-saver; for example, moving channel sales data into a spreadsheet for analyzing short-term cash formerly took a week. On Anaplan, the equivalent process happens instantly and automatically.
Tye can attribute specific, substantial time-savings to Anaplan: The channel sales model alone saves finance more than two days of effort every month, and the short-term cash model has shaved more than a day’s time from their workload every week. But the benefits of Anaplan are greater than just faster processes, he insists. Finance now has granular understanding of the levers that affect the business, and that knowledge has transformed the relationship with its business partners. “We can do forecasting on the fly with the business,” he explains. “It’s more of a conversation,” not just a series of change requests.
As connections grow between more of Thomas Cook’s business processes—such as payroll, overhead, and pricing—improvements will travel seamlessly through even more of the business environment. Tye is excited by the prospect: “We feel very much that we now own the process,” he concludes. “We know what’s going on end-to-end.”
Andrew Tye, Head of Finance Transformation, Thomas Cook: Our mission statement is to be the best-loved travel company. It’s making sure that, from start to finish, we do the right thing.
The travel sector is highly competitive. There’s all these dynamics, as well as foreign exchange movements and external cost pressures. No year is the same. You think you’ve had a good year, and then something will happen, and you’ve got to basically start all over again—but go, “Right, well, how do we mitigate all of these various risks?”
In terms of selecting Anaplan, the key piece for us in finance was speed. The ability to do changes, and you have what the outcome of those changes are.
Within finance we have two large models, each of about 300 million cells, and then we have some smaller models that feed those. Having everything all in one place, and that seamless interaction between the models, is a very powerful thing.
We have one model that forecasts ancillary sales—something that we did very, very high-level within Excel, now because of Anaplan we can go to that granular detail to get that much fuller picture of how can we best maximize profit from those products.
By using Anaplan we can forecast it at a currency level, so Euros, dollars, exotic currencies. We can now drive out more margin because we understand more what’s going on.
We’ve now moved a lot of those outputs into Anaplan so we can do forecasting on the fly with the business. It’s more of a conversation as opposed to a series of requests for change.
Words on screen: Thomas Cook saves 2+ days per month with its Channel Receipts model and 1+ days per week with its Short-Term Cash model.
Andrew Tye: The benefits of using Anaplan are more than just efficiency. With Anaplan we feel very much that we now own the process. We know what’s going on, end to end.